Virginia Tech Tragedy Hits Home for Browns Safety - Cleveland 19 News Cleveland, OH

Virginia Tech Tragedy Hits Home for Browns Safety

BEREA, Ohio (AP) - As the video displayed the disturbing images of gun-toting police and gunfire erupting on Virginia Tech's campus, Browns safety Justin Hamilton was overwhelmed by one thought.

"I would have been in that building if I was still a student there," he said. "I really have been struggling with what I would have done or what it was that decided those people's fates.

"I've really struggled with that."

Like so many in the Virginia Tech family, Hamilton is grieving over the deaths of 33 people, including a lone gunman, who went on a rampage through a dormitory and classrooms on Virginia Tech's campus in Blacksburg, Va., on Monday.

Hamilton, drafted in the seventh round by Cleveland in 2006, spent five years at the school. In his final three years, he attended classes in Norris Hall, where most of the killings took place.

He was at the Browns' facility working out early Monday when he first learned of a problem at his alma mater. After showering, he was on his way to breakfast when he began getting more information on the unfolding tragedy.

"I started getting text messages and phone calls, and immediately I knew something was going on that was really bad," he said.

One message Hamilton received was from a close friend, a SWAT team member.

"He said he was dispatched to Virginia Tech, which is three hours away," Hamilton said. "When he sent me a message, I knew something was really bad. I went straight home, turned on the news and basically I have been watching for the last 24 hours."

Hamilton watched in disbelief as a video taken by a Virginia Tech student with a cell phone was shown numerous times. On it, police are seen working their way up to the doors of Norris Hall, which authorities said were apparently chained shut by the shooter.

The images deeply affected the 24-year-old, still wrestling with the horror that took place at his school.

"There were chills all over my body because I have seen through the eyes of that camera. Almost everyday of my career I was in that area," he said. "It was just like I was watching a normal day on campus except there were guns shots and SWAT teams and police everywhere.

"To think that we might be hearing the last moments of some people's lives. ... I could not get that out of my mind, how it could have been me. I don't understand why I was spared and those people weren't and that has really bothered me."

Hamilton spent Monday afternoon and evening phoning friends on campus, praying everyone he knew was OK. So far, none of the victims has been someone he knows personally.

However, Hamilton, born in Norfolk, Va., said the losses have rattled everyone with ties to the school and its surrounding, close-knit community. It's been impossible for him to grasp the horrors that took place at Virginia Tech.

"On a normal day, it's a beautiful campus," he said. "Campus life is just abundant. It just overflows with life. You see smiling faces. You see people who are just happy to be there. It's just a great place to go to school it's a great place to grow up. It really rocked me. It's inconceivable."

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